Social Care Platforms Collaborate on Interoperable Referrals in Michigan

Nov. 18, 2022
Michigan Health Information Network hosts eight vendors in community of practice to create a path for referral data to flow between platforms

Eight of the top social care platform vendors have formed a community of practice (CoP) hosted by the Michigan Health Information Network (MiHIN). The group is dedicated to the statewide sharing of data that documents social need identification, referrals, interventions, and outcomes amongst care teams that span health and social care.

The nonprofit MiHIN is Michigan’s state-designated entity to improve healthcare quality, efficiency, and patient safety by sharing electronic health information statewide. MIHIN began this work last December when it announced a partnership with findhelp to work together on a pathway to interoperable referrals to community-based organizations.

At the time Marty Woodruff, chief operating officer of MiHIN, described current solutions to address unmet social needs as disconnected by the lack of interoperability in this space. In a statement, he said they instead “function as disjointed proprietary silos that inhibit whole-person care. Interoperable social care data is a critical element for holistic treatment of individuals and populations, where neither people, nor data, is bound by systems or geography. MiHIN remains committed to the concept of vendor neutral health data interoperability and in seeking partners steadfast to these principles.”

Earlier this year, six vendors signed an “Interoperable Referrals Pledge” with MIHIN to work together in the public interest to enable a more interoperable social care environment through mutual collaboration. The six organizations, along with MiHIN, committed to eliminating information silos and to using national standards (e.g., HL7 FHIR Gravity Project) and open APIs.

The eight vendors in the CoP are Care Advisors, CareConvene, Findhelp (formerly known as Aunt Bertha), Holon, PCE Systems, Riverstar, Unite Us and WellSky. The concern these companies share is that coordination of care is challenging when data and contextual information is not easily accessible to the people who need to make real-time decisions to provide care. The CoP’s initial focus is on creating a path for referral data to flow between platforms.

To tackle the set of problems, their collective discovery process includes a technical and standards analysis that acknowledges that not all community-based organizations will have access to technically sophisticated systems. While a shared vision for data flow is emerging, the collaborators are laboring towards a shared perspective of privacy and governance for social care data.

“The community of practice shares a singular focus and shared mission of improving people’s lives by supporting community-lead systems of care,” said Lisa Nicolaou, MiHIN’s cross-sector data program director, in a statement. “Each respective organization is committing considerable time, energy and human capacity for public benefit. In the same way that trust must be facilitated between patient and provider to adequately and accurately capture the whole picture of a person’s health, so is the CoP working to foster trust between health and social care provider organizations, and between themselves as businesses in a competitive and currently unregulated space.”

Partnerships like the newly formed CoP work to create the trust and appropriate guardrails needed to pilot exchanges, which can provide the groundwork needed for strategic data governance at a community, state or national level, MIHIN said.


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